Truly Virtual Web Art Museum
May 28, 2013 


Menehunes of in the Backyard
by Rodney E.J. Chang


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      Rebecca was having a hard time in life.  Things had to get better.  She just turned 40, was overweight, had two children ages 10 and 8, wasn't married, and had been unemployed for over two years.  She was fortunate to qualify for state assistance, the kids were doing OK in school and not running wild, and finally managed to get herself and children out of her single father's house.  She had had a earful of advice and criticism from the old man to last her a lifetime.  Rebecca was tired of being treated like a loser and now had a chance to stand on her own two feet.  Having found a cheap rental in the basement of an old house, miles away from her father's place, she still could afford to take business classes to be more employable.   Without much self-confidence and having always struggled in school, she was exploitable.  Her gullibility also didn't help, nor did moving in with the landlord that she had.  She was fortunate to find a basement unit of an old house in Honolulu.


      Rose Santiago and her husband, both in their late 50s, where originally from the Philippines.  They had managed to save enough to acquire the mortgage on the old, single-wall wooden house – in need of repairs,  in Liliha, an old neighborhood with old people and recently arrived immigrants.   The congested area with link fences and above ground telephone poles and wires  hemming in winding narrow streets was looked down upon by the more affluent that lived above Liliha valley up on Alewa Heights, from where there was a fantastic view of downtown Honolulu as well as infamous Pearl Harbor.


       After a few months as landlord above the tenant in the basement, Rose took a liking to struggling Rebecca.  She started to treat the single parent as her own daughter, giving advice whether Rebecca wanted it or not.  People always seemed to want to counsel the woman.  She knew she needed help and was always all ears to free advice.  But besides practical advice on getting a job, and offering her a measley 10 cents an hour to babysit Rose's 90 year-old mother who lived on the first floor and was confined to a wheel chair, Rose filled Rebecca's mind with her superstition about the little people.


     “Menehunes live in my back yard.  Maybe sometimes they come up to peek inside the basement windows.” 


      “How do you know,”  Rebecca would trepidly ask with credulousness.


      “Because when I water the plants in the back yard I can hear the sound of running.  In the  bushes next to big mango tree.   Soft steps like that of little children.”


      “But have you ever seen any of them?”


      “No but I can also feel them watching me.”


      Feel them?  Rebecca was trying to decide if she should believe this too.  Their rental space had a back porch landing that led to the back yard.  She wondered if she had to worry about the safety of her young children.


     “You know a few months back my husband asked me in the morning if I pulled his hair last night.” 


     “Well, Rose, did you?”


     “I've been with that old man so long, why would I bother?  Of course not.  I told him it was probably one of those menehunes.  They can be rascals, you know.”


     “So what did he think after you said that?”


     “He agreed with me.  He always does.  He knows I'm smarter than him.”




     “I know it's true, you know.


     “How can you be so sure?  You told me you never really saw any.”


     “As you know, I just went to visit relatives back in the Philippines.  There I meet with a seer and told him about my suspicion concerning menehunes living in my back yard. The old man closed his eyes and when he opened them, told me, 'It's true.  I could see the little people running about in your yard at night.  They pulled your husband's hair because they were angry at him.'”


     “What did he do to get them angry?”


     “The day before he had cleaned up the back, mowed away much of their hunting area, reducing their camouflage from people.”


     “I can see why they are upset.”


     “That's not all.”


     “What else did you discover?”


     “They're also upset with you.”




     “After the clean up, you after neglecting the back for so long, the way they like it -you know, privacy and natural bushes, started to water the back.”


     “Well now that's things are tidy back there, I thought I should take care of the yard better.”


     “Well, you got them all wet.  And continue to do so every time you spray water over the area.  You better stop this when you go back to Hawaii or else something bad will happen to you.”


     Rose believed it all and told the soothsayer she'd stop watering the back and tell her husband not to trim things back again.  She had no choice but let the place become unkempt again.


     “There's one more thing.  Those chickens that you keep in the coop back there.”


     “What about it?”


     “Well notice how sometimes a little chick or some eggs are missing?”


     “You mean it's those little people?”


     “Yes, and they don't like the fact that you only have one chicken left.  Stop killing and eating the lot; let that last one live.”


     “But that's why we keep the chickens.  For the meat.”


     Having heard the session between Rose and the visionary, Rebecca said,


     “But I notice the cage is empty now.”


     “Yeah, by the time I got back, that husband of mine had killed it and made chicken adobo and chicken papaya soup.”


     “So now what?” asked Rebecca in a worried tone.


     “Well, I'm bringing all this stuff about menehunes up because I just cut your hair.”  Rebecca need her hair trimmed, to look more professional before doing job interviews.  Money was tight and Rose wanted to lend a hand.  But not wanting to get hair all over the floor inside the house, she led Rose to the back porch for the haircut.  Most of the hair was sweep up but some blew into the yard or was sweep there from off the porch's landing.


     “Sorry, thinking things over, I made a mistake by cutting your hair back there.”  


     “Why, Rose?”


     “Well, remember those creatures coming inside my house, even up to the 2nd floor where we sleep, to pull the hair of my husband?   What little he still has?”




     “I think the menehune's in my yard can use hair to communicate or even make a curse.”


     “What are you saying?” Rebecca  now said with fear on her face.


     “I'm sorry but you may now be cursed.”




     “If I was you, I'd make an offering to them, like I sometimes do.”


     “Is that what those soda cans are back there?”


     “Yes, they especially love Coke.”


     “That's silly... I don't believe that..”


     “You better believe.  If you don't want your own hair pulled some night, or even have something worse happen to you.  Or maybe even to your children.”


     Thinking it over, Rebecca thought, OK, why not be safe?  I can afford to waste a can of soda.  As if Mrs. Santiago had heard the other woman's thoughts, the tenant then continued with,



     “I would also place a raw piece of chicken.  Really make nice to them.” 


     “That would be a nice gesture,” replied her landlord.


     “I guess I could spare a wing the next time I buy a pack of chicken pieces from the market to make dinner.”


“I wouldn't insult them and look cheap,” cautioned Rose.  “Better to give them a nice big thigh or drum stick.” 


That's the best parts, thought the overweight tenant, but answered, “OK, if you think it's necessary.”


“OK then,” concluded the landlord.  “So it's agreed.  From now on you'll be the one to put chicken and soda out back for them, not me.”




“Hey, you're the one in trouble.  I stopped watering and the grass and tall weeds are growing back in.  Think of your kids.  And don't you forget, they got your hair.”


“But do I still have to place chicken if you just buy another chicken for the coop?”


“We don't plan to. We're getting too old to take care of chickens.  It's cheaper today just to buy the meat and eggs from the supermarket.”


“Well, OK, if you think it'll keep them away from me and the kids.”


“Absolutely, my dear.”